NTRA Reports Positive Financial Results

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association Board of Directors on April 17 approved the organization’s audited financial results for the fiscal year concluding Jan. 31, 2014, which reflect net revenues of $667,477.

The results continued a positive trend from the previous fiscal year when NTRA net revenues were $66,850. The board’s action took place during its regularly scheduled second-quarter meeting.

“The positive 2013 financial results were accomplished through disciplined reductions in spending as well as unprecedented growth in a variety of areas, especially the NTRA Advantage group purchasing program,” said NTRA President Alex Waldrop, in a statement. “The NTRA is building a sustainable future by producing valuable programs and building strong partnerships while reducing its reliance on dues support from members.”

The complete NTRA financials and the company’s annual report will be released in early June.

In other action, the Board: • Ratified the 2014 NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance Code of Standards; • Reviewed recent progress in industry-wide efforts to implement uniform national medication reforms; • Received updates on federal legislative activities in Washington, D.C., marketing, communications, and the Advantage purchasing program.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the NTRA board will be Aug. 8 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/84445/ntra-reports-positive-financial-results#ixzz2zGcjpFFx

Oaklawn Posts Double-Digit Handle Gains

Oaklawn Posts Double-Digit Handle Gains

Oaklawn Park recorded double-digit increases in total handle, average daily handle, and average daily purse distribution during the 51-day meet that ended April 12.

With three fewer days in 2014 compared to 2013, the Arkansas track’s total handle increased 12% to $169,248,051. Average total handle increased 19% to $3,318,589. Off-track handle during the 51-day 2014 season increased 27% to a daily average $2,585,327, compared with $2,040,707 in 2013.

Average daily attendance of 10,357 represented a gain of less than 1% from 2013. Four days of racing and two partial race cards were cancelled due to track conditions and/or inclement weather.

“Racing fans throughout the nation and Arkansas responded to the high quality of racing we were able to offer,” said director of racing David Longinotti. “Our goal every year is to provide our fans with Thoroughbred racing of the highest quality. These numbers reflect that we are achieving that goal.”

With two significant purse increases during the meet, average daily purse distribution rose from $365,370 in 2013 to $411,071 in 2014, an increase of 13%. According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, average runners per race fell slightly from 9.02 last year to 8.96 in 2014.

The 2015 race meet is scheduled for Jan. 9-April 11.

Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/84458/oaklawn-posts-double-digit-handle-gains#ixzz2zGbqylvZ


Key Owners, Trainers to Publicize Vet Records


Key Owners, Trainers to Publicize Vet Records

A large and growing number of prominent Thoroughbred owners and trainers have voluntarily pledged to make veterinary records of their horses competing in graded stakes races in the United States and Canada available to the public, The Jockey Club announced April 17.

Such records will cover the 14-day period preceding and including the day of each race and will be available on the day of the race at least two hours prior to post time. The pledges take effect immediately.
The current list of high-profile owners includes Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, John Amerman, Antony Beck, Gary Biszantz, Bill Casner, Claiborne Farm, Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley and Godolphin, Adele Dilschneider, Dogwood Stable, Will Farish, Glen Hill Farm, Harris Farms (John Harris), Stuart S. Janney III, Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Stud, Earle Mack, Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud, Dr. Hiram Polk Jr., Phipps Stable, Dr. J. David Richardson, Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, Stella Thayer, Three Chimneys Farm, Tic Stable (Ian Highet), Terry Finley’s West Point Thoroughbreds, Peter Willmott, WinStar Farm, and Woodford Racing (Bill Farish).
Trainers include Roger Attfield, Mark Casse, Christophe Clement, Neil Drysdale, D. Wayne Lukas, Richard Mandella, Michael Matz, Shug McGaughey, Ken McPeek, Graham Motion, Bill Mott, John Shirreffs, Al Stall Jr., Dallas Stewart, and Ian Wilkes.
The decision by the owners and trainers follows closely on the heels of an April 14 public proposal by Ogden Mills Phipps, the chairman of The Jockey Club, suggesting that the veterinary records for every horse entered in this year¹s Triple Crown races be made available as a means to bring greater credibility and integrity to Thoroughbred racing at a time when millions are watching.
“The outpouring of support for this initiative has been dramatic and this is just a preliminary list of those who have stepped forward in the past few days,” Phipps said. “I commend each of the owners and trainers for taking a bold step to enhance the image of our sport, and it is our sincere hope that other owners and trainers will soon adopt this voluntary practice as well.”
Owners and trainers who would like to add their names to the list of participants may do so by visiting The Jockey Club website at jockeyclub.com.
As an industry service, The Jockey Club will provide on its website a list of owners and trainers who pledge to make veterinary records available, and the list will be updated on a regular basis.
Additional details regarding this initiative will be announced in the near future.
Also, as an extension of its On Call media assistance program that is designed to provide accurate veterinary information, the American Association of Equine Practitioners will provide to media, upon request, general information about medications and treatments described in those records. AAEP will not, however, provide information or perspective on any specific horse, treatment, or procedure because an On Call veterinarian will not have examined the horse in question.

Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/84439/key-owners-trainers-to-publicize-vet-records#ixzz2zCMSvvRM

Regulators Begin Asmussen Investigations

Regulators Begin Asmussen Investigations

At least one regulator investigating violations alleged in a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals video posted last month involving the stable of trainer Steve Asmussen expects the inquiry to take at least several months.

Racing regulators in New York and Kentucky have launched investigations related to the PETA video that was collected by one of its members while she worked last year for Asmussen. Involved parties say videos were shot at both Churchill Downs and Saratoga Race Course over a period of at least four months.

Following PETA’s release of some video footage last month, the New York State Gaming Commission announced it would investigate allegations of abuse and mistreatment of horses by Asmussen and his then-assistant trainer, Scott Blasi. The NYSGC also said it would look into PETA allegations against jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. and track veterinarians Joseph Migliacci and James Hunt.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission also has launched an investigation related to the video. KHRC executive director John Ward said PETA has sent the commission a short video that includes only a few minutes of footage shot in Kentucky. He said the KHRC has requested all of the video compiled by PETA but has yet to receive it from the animal rights group.

“It’s a slow process. We are moving at a fast snail’s pace dictated by the PETA organization,” said Ward, noting that the animal rights organization may have more videos it plans to release. “We have already done all of our due diligence as far as what we have seen. Our scenario now is to find out what other information they have. That’s kind of the same way New York is.”

NYGSC spokesman Lee Park said the regulator is declining to comment because of the investigation.

Asmussen’s attorney Clark Brewster said PETA has been uncooperative in supplying them with all of the available video.

“PETA has never supplied us with any video or even their complaints. We’ve either had to get them from (Freedom of Information Act) requests or the media,” Brewster said. “We’re pursuing all the video available.”

Brewster said he and his client have been in contact with regulators from New York and Kentucky.

“We’ve reached out to both New York and Kentucky to let them know that any materials they need, any documents we have; we’re completely open,” Brewster said. “Steve told me to be transparent in every respect. We’re supplying any documentation requested and Steve is available to speak with them at any time. I’ve been in contact with representatives from both of those states.”

In a March 20 release, the NYSGC said it would investigate allegations of abuse and mistreatment of horses in the Asmussen barn.

New York keeps one of the most transparent databases on equine injuries and deaths in the country, searchable by trainer. According to the database, Asmussen has not had a single horse in his care die during a race since the database was launched before racing shifted to the main oval at Aqueduct in the spring of 2009 through its most recent update of April 10 this year.
Looking at stats for the full years available, 2010-2013, Asmussen started 847 horses at New York tracks without a single fatality. During those years, horses suffered fatal breakdowns (as listed in the database) in New York races at a rate of 1 every 438 starts.

The state also keeps track of equine fatalities during training. Using starts to help define a rate for this statistic, horses in New York from 2010-2013 broke down at a rate of once every 260 “starts.” (for these purposes “starts” count race starts but include fatalities suffered while racing or training for those starts.)

Asmussen had five horses die during training from the time the database was launched in 2009 through 2014: Timberah, Edwards, Kensei, Liston, and Whistleblower. In looking at statistics from the full years available for the trainer (2010-2013), Asmussen horses died in racing or training for those races once every 212 “starts,” a rate that is 18% higher than the state average.

In New York, PETA filed complaints with the NYSGC alleging veterinarians administered furosemide to horses who did not qualify for the drug, a fact they say Blasi knew.

Like all racing jurisdictions in the U.S., New York allows race-day furosemide (Salix, commonly called Lasix) as a medication to prevent or reduce the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. In the video, it is unclear what horse is receiving the Salix administration or when it was received.

In New York it is not a high hurdle for a horse to be allowed to receive Salix. The state’s racing regulations allow it to be administered to any horse that has bled visibly during a race or workout as determined by a regulatory veterinarian or attending veterinarian, which may or may not include an endoscopic exam after a race or workout. Horses who were eligible for Salix in another state also are eligible in New York, horses who race on furosemide in their previous start are eligible, and a horse placed on a list for furosemide is eligible. According to the regulation, a horse who qualifies in any of the above categories is eligible for Salix.

Since 2010, Asmussen twice has been sanctioned for Salix violations. In January 2010, Asmussen paid a fine of $500 after pleading “no contest” to charges of a Salix overage at Remington Park in Oklahoma. In July of that year, he was fined $100 for giving Salix too close to the race.

According to the industry website ownerview.com, since 2009 Asmussen has had two other drug positives for which he was penalized. Both were for therapeutic medications allowed in the sport that have to be out of a horse’s system on race day or at a race-day level that does not affect performance. In March 2011 the Maryland Racing Commission fined Asmussen $500 when pyrimethamine, a medication used to treat the equine neurological disease equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, was found in a horse’s system on race day; and in June of that year Kentucky stewards fined Asmussen $250 for an overage of the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone.

Asmussen has had no sanctions for medication violations since that June 2011 fine, a period of nearly three years. Brewster believes it’s telling that PETA has made no allegations involving illegal drugs.

“One thing that PETA’s not saying is that there was any illegal medication. One thing that they’re not saying is that either of these guys or their employees gave any kind of shots, or anything that was wrong in regard to medication,” Brewster said. “I think that is important to note.

“There’s a lot of innuendo, belief among some people who saw the video that something terrible had gone wrong. As a matter of fact, there’s no substance to that and not even an accusation of that.”

PETA also alleged that jockey Santana used an electrical device, or “machine,” to shock horses while riding them for Asmussen. New York regulators will have a short list of races to review. Last year at Saratoga, Santana rode horses trained by Asmussen just three times, including a runner-up finish aboard Mico Margarita in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II). He did not have a win in those three starts.

New York investigators will examine those races as well as any alleged incidents during training as state regulations forbid the possession of such electrical or mechanical devices on or near a racetrack.

Brewster said the video conversation of use of electrical devices was just horsemen relaying tall tales. He said it was telling that there was no video of such a device.

“Do you think that if there was a ‘machine’ being used that this girl, who was in and out of the barn for five months—in their tack room, and with the riders most of the time when they saddled in the morning and afternoons—don’t you think we’d have a candid conversation or a picture or something like that in five months?” Brewster questioned. “I think the fact that that did not occur over a five-month period suggests that was loose talk at a party.”

In Kentucky, PETA alleges a non-veterinarian employed by Asmussen administered a drug to one of his horses and Blasi maintained horses “who were apparently in poor physical condition, in apparent violation of Kentucky’s Thoroughbred racing regulations.” Ward said Kentucky would examine those allegations as well as any others that come up after watching the available video and meeting with PETA representatives.

Ward said the KHRC will follow rules of due process, which could require months of work.

“It’s advancing but not at the rate that the racing public would like to see it advance,” Ward said.

KHRC general counsel Susan Speckert is in charge of the investigation and she will be assisted by director of racing Marc Guilfoil and director of enforcement Chris Clark, a former detective with the Kentucky State Police.

“They’re used to doing these kinds of investigations,” Ward said. “They’ll be looking at all of the information as they get it.”

Ward added that the actions of the PETA member who gathered the video also could be examined because Kentucky racing regulations require license holders to report any potential animal abuse as soon as they become aware of it.

Brewster said Asmussen is looking forward to addressing PETA’s allegations.

“This is an attack on racing. Does racing have some issues it needs to resolve? Absolutely, and I think Steve would be at the first seat at the table,” Brewster said. “I think that needs to be done somewhere along the way. I think all of us in the business know that there are things that can be done better and more transparently for the public. I think that needs to be done.

“This is just an attack on the industry. Those people who join this or somehow revel in this attack on Steve Asmussen aren’t doing the industry any favors. If anything, they’re contributing to an organization whose dedicated purpose is to destroy racing.”

PETA also said it filed a complaint with the New York State Education Department, which oversees professional licenses. PETA alleges veterinarians “may have excessively administered unwarranted treatment to horses” in Asmussen’s barn. NYSED said it does not comment on any investigations until the results are complete and would not comment if it is undertaking such an investigation.

Such an investigation, if it takes place, could be ground-breaking for the industry. In recent years some leading racing regulators have suggested that veterinary boards should examine the practices of racetrack veterinarians.

PETA also alleged in its complaint to NYSED that a track veterinarian allegedly practiced veterinary medicine in New York for 10 years without a license. The PETA complaint does not list the name of the vet. The NYSGC said it would look into the actions of veterinarians James Hunt and Joseph Migliacci. According to NYSED records, Hunt has had a license since 1981 and Migliacci since 1992.

PETA also lodged complaints with Louisville Metro Animal Services. It alleged Asmussen and Blasi “subjected horses to cruel or injurious mistreatment by forcing injured and/or suffering horses to train and/or race, and mutilated horses’ legs by ‘blistering’ the legs with a caustic chemical. PETA also alleged that Santana used a device to shock horses.

LMAS said April 16 that it is not pursuing the investigation and has turned over the complaints to the KHRC.

In 2013 at Churchill Downs, Santana had 140 mounts for Asmussen with 35 wins, including stakes victories on Tapiture in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) and Vuitton in the Open Mind.

PETA also has filed complaints with the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, and the New York Department of Labor alleging violations of minimum wage laws, undocumented workers, false identification, and other related labor law violations.

In 2010 in Texas and in 2011 in Oklahoma, Asmussen was fined for employing an unlicensed groom.
Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/84427/regulators-begin-asmussen-investigations#ixzz2z79x8FqW

Game On Dude Arrives for Charles Town Classic


Game On Dude Arrives for Charles Town Classic
Three-time Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Game On Dude arrived in West Virginia April 15 ahead of his expected start in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic (gr. II) April 19, when he will bid for a repeat victory in the race at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
Game On Dude was one of 19 horses boarding a Tex Sutton flight in Ontario, Calif. at 5:00 a.m. PDT that made a stop in Lexington, before touching down in Martinsburg, W.V. a little before 2 p.m. EDT.
Owned by Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable, and Bernie Schiappa, Game On Dude was accompanied on his journey by trainer Bob Baffert’s assistant Jim Barnes.
The 7-year-old Awesome Again   gelding was joined on his cross-country trip by fellow Charles Town Classic probables Clubhouse Ride and Imperative.
Six-S Racing Stable and Nikolas Petralia’s Clubhouse Ride is winless in seven starts since capturing last year’s Californian Stakes (gr. II). The 6-year-old son of Candy Ride   checked in second, a half-length behind Game On Dude in the 2013 Charles Town Classic. KM Racing Enterprise’s San Antonio Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Imperative, a 4-year-old Bernardini   gelding, will be making his first career start outside of California.
After dropping off most of the flight’s contingent in Kentucky, the three Charles Town Classic-bound horses were joined by Southern Equine Stable’s 2013 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) winner and Travers Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Moreno before continuing on to West Virginia. The 4-year-old son of Ghostzapper   had previously vanned up to Lexington from Hot Springs, Ark. where he was scratched from the April 12 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) and pointed instead to the Charles Town Classic.
Entries for the Charles Town Classic card will be taken and drawn on April 16, with post time for the first race set for 5:00 p.m. EDT. The Charles Town Classic is scheduled to go off at 10:30 p.m.

Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/84407/game-on-dude-arrives-for-charles-town-classic#ixzz2z79ZaZX4


Stronach Takes Stand on Integrity Reforms

Stronach Takes Stand on Integrity Reforms

Industry leader Frank Stronach has taken a stand on integrity reforms and his racetracks will take the lead in implementing measures aimed at eliminating drug abuse and the mistreatment of horses, it was announced April 16.

The Stronach Group owns Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park, Pimlico Race Course, Golden Gate Fields, Laurel Park, and Portland Meadows. Its outspoken founder and chairman is one of North America’s top Thoroughbred breeders, represented by his Adena Springs operations in Florida, Canada, and Lexington.

“The Stronach Group has always been committed to ensuring that our horse racing businesses operate with integrity and concern for the health and safety of the horses and the people who work with them,” Stronach said in a release. “Now, more than ever, we as track operators, horsemen and regulators must come together to do everything we can to prevent any abuse of our Thoroughbred athletes.

“We must also work diligently to ban any individuals engaged in fraudulent or harmful activities from participating in our sport. The goal of these efforts is to achieve the highest standards with respect to the integrity of our sport and the safety of our athletes, both equine and human.

“The Stronach Group is supportive of all initiatives that help achieve the goal of horses competing free from the influence of medication, and therefore fully supports the horse racing industry’s first ever National Uniform Medication Program,” the release said.

“The program seeks to limit the number of therapeutic medications that are needed for the routine treatment of horses and sets medication thresholds and withdrawal time guidelines. The program also provides penalty recommendations that specifically address repeat medication offenders.

“In order to be effective, these reforms must be adopted and implemented by all racing states no later than September 1, 2014,” the release read. “If this deadline is not met, The Stronach Group will work together with other concerned industry stakeholders to begin aggressively lobbying for federal legislation containing the same reforms outlined in the proposed National Uniform Medication Program.”

In addition to supporting the key principles of the National Uniform Medication Program, The Stronach Group said it is committed to implementing several key measures aimed at eliminating drug abuse and the mistreatment of horses at all of its racetracks.

The Stronach Group will create a strictly regulated pharmacy to dispense all medications prescribed and administered on association property, prohibit anyone from having any medications in their possession unless those medications have been properly prescribed for a therapeutic treatment program. It will institute random spot checks of veterinarians and all personnel that have access to the horse.

Automatic drug testing for all horses that ship in to race will be enacted, and The Stronach Group will establish a program of random drug testing that can be administered at any time for all horses.

The racetracks will reserve the right to ban individuals found guilty of animal abuse from competing.

Other initiatives mentioned in the release include the tracks establishing a right to request all veterinarian records and have them examined by an independent team of veterinarians, creating a shared database of all racing and training fatalities, and prohibiting the use of buzzers or other devices designed to manipulate or abuse horses.

The final initiative listed in the release was a plan to provide horse ambulances and stalls fitted with special equipment to ensure the safe and humane movement of an injured horse in order to provide immediate care with the ultimate goal of rehabilitation.

“We at The Stronach Group are committed to undertaking all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the horses and jockeys,” the release said. “I hope that these proposals will be endorsed by owners, trainers, and veterinarians.”

To assist with the implementation of the new proposals, The Stronach Group is searching for an equine health and safety director who will report to a newly established equine health and safety board. The members of this new board will include owners, trainers, and veterinarians.

“We owe it to the horses and the public, as well as to all of the hard-working and honest horsemen in our industry, to implement these measures,” Stronach said. “As racetrack owners, we must continuously implement procedures that will enhance the integrity of this great sport, and look forward to working with all industry stakeholders to help fine-tune these proposals in order to bring about much-needed reform.”

In addition to racetrack holdings and the Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida, The Stronach Group also owns the HRTV cable network, the wagering technology company AmTote, the internet and telephone acount wagering company XpressBet, and the simulcast purchase group Monarch Content Management, which supplies racing content to multiple North American tracks and betting facilities.
Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/84429/stronach-takes-stand-on-integrity-reforms#ixzz2z79AR6C1


Mixed Reaction to Churchill Takeout Increase

Kentucky horsemen expected backlash from Churchill Downs‘ decision to charge the maximum takeout rates allowed by state law, but they hope positives follow from increased purses that improve the racing product enough to outweigh those negatives.

Beginning with the upcoming meet, which begins April 26, Churchill plans to increase takeout—the percentage of the wagering pool retained by the track and split with horsemen—on win, place, and show wagers from 16% to 17.5% and on all exotic wagers (exacta, trifecta, pick three, etc) from 19% to 22%. The remaining percentage of the pools is paid back to bettors.

Track officials noted Churchill has fallen under the $1.2 million threshold in terms of average daily on-track wagering during its live meets. (In fact, experts say every track in the state is under that threshold.) Kentucky statute sets the maximum takeout rates for tracks under $1.2 million in average daily handle at 17.5% for win, place, and show and 22% for exotic wagers, and Churchill will put those maximum rates in place.

The rates Churchill will put in place are largely the same as those currently in place at Turfway Park and Ellis Park. Keeneland and Kentucky Downs offer lower takeout rates.

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association estimates the change will generate an additional $8 million for purses at Churchill Downs. The track would receive a similar figure.

Based on last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) handle, the new rates will result in an additional $3 million removed from the pools to be split between Churchill and the purse fund from that race alone based on last year’s win, place, and show wagering as well as vertical exotic bets (exacta, trifecta) and horizontal exotic wagers (daily double, pick three) that end in the Derby.

Some of the money will be committed to graded stakes purses. The Louisville track is facing some mandatory purse increases for some of its stakes races if it wants to maintain their graded status. The American Graded Stakes Committee announced Aug. 12 it will raise the minimum purse required for a stakes race to be eligible for grade I or grade II status in 2014 by $50,000 for each.

Minimum purse levels will be increased to $300,000 for grade I stakes and $200,000 for grade II stakes races. Minimum purses for grade III, listed, and grade-eligible stakes races will remain at $100,000, $75,000 and $75,000, respectively, for 2014.

Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association executive director Marty Maline said Churchill had run the idea of increasing takeout by his organization as a way to increase purses. Maline said he understands the decision but regrets that the track felt it had no other options.

“I mentioned to them that obviously the organizations representing bettors will probably give them a lot of grief over it but I sure understand the purpose behind it,” Maline said. “From the horsemen’s perspective, we can obviously use the extra purse money. I think they’re looking for all avenues to try to supplement purses.”

Upset handicappers expressed their frustration through social media and the Horseplayers Association of North America revised its track rankings, moving Churchill from fifth to 22.

Maline said the track is facing considerable competition from states that supplement purses with money from added gaming, including Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and, beginning this year, Ohio. But, as more money is committed to Churchill and purses, bettors will be missing out on millions of dollars.

Churchill and industry leaders hope the added purses help maintain and improve the product by offering top horses and larger fields. Those trends could offset some of the negatives of charging more for wagering.

“Hopefully it doesn’t have so many negatives with the betting public that the negatives outweigh the positives,” Maline said.

Churchill did not have to ask permission from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to increase the takeout rate because the maximum rates already are in place in state statute. Commission executive director John Ward said the Louisville track did inform the KHRC of its plans.

KTA executive director David Switzer has mixed feelings about the takeout increase.

“Of course we like the fact that we are going to increase our purse account it looks like by about $8 million which will help races at Churchill be competitive with (racino tracks),” Switzer said. “The problem is what effect this could have with our horseplayers. I certainly appreciate and fully understand the importance of the wagering folks, particularly those who wager large sums of money. I don’t think the $2 bettor is going to notice it. From that standpoint, it’s a little bittersweet.”
Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/84381/mixed-reaction-to-churchill-takeout-increase#ixzz2ytZx06mQ

Oaks Hopeful Awesome Baby Works

Oaks Hopeful Awesome Baby Works

Photo: Coady Photography – Awesome Baby

Grade II winner Awesome Baby handily completed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 April 14 at Santa Anita Park as the daughter of Awesome Again   continues preparations for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 2 at Churchill Downs.

Kaleem Shah’s Awesome Baby has reeled off three straight stakes wins, taking the Santa Ynez (gr. II) on Jan. 4 and Santa Ysabel (gr. III) March 1 at Santa Anita before cruising to a 4 1/4-length victory in the Sunland Park Oaks March 23.

Monday’s five-furlong move for trainer Bob Baffert is the second straight work at that distance for Awesome Baby, who is out of the Running Stag mare Miss Attractive. In her first official workout after the Sunland Park Oaks, Awesome Baby handily completed five furlongs in 1:01 April 8 at Santa Anita.
Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/84378/oaks-hopeful-awesome-baby-works#ixzz2ytZTq5Yv

Kentucky Oaks Name Game: 2014 Edition

It’s time for my annual Kentucky Oaks name blog! I cover the Kentucky Oaks for the magazine, so for the last five years, I have researched the meanings behind the names of several of Oaks-bound fillies. Read some of my past entries here, here, and here.

Whenever I make a “hunch bet,” it’s usually about 80-90% based on the horse’s name.  How much do name meanings weigh on your handicapping?

These fillies are in order according to how many points they have earned along the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. Who is your favorite so far? Does the name have anything to do with it?

Untapable (160 points)

Fair Grounds Oaks winner Untapable; Photo by Hodges Photography

David Fiske, racing manager for owner Winchell Thoroughbreds, explained that her name mostly derives from her superstar sire, Tapit. “We throw prefixes and suffixes around and mix them up and see what works,” he said.

Sugar Shock (120 points)

Sugar Shock winning the Fantasy Stakes; Photo by Coady Photography

“It’s just a play on words,” said trainer Doug Anderson of the filly, who is by Candy Ride. “As a kid, you get ‘sugar shock’ if you eat too much candy.”

Fashion Plate (110 points)

Fashion Plate winning the Santa Anita Oaks; Photo by Benoit

According to trainer Simon Callaghan, this filly was named by owner Arnold Zetcher’s wife, Ellen. Undoubtedly, part of the name derives from her sire, Old Fashioned, but the moniker is also fitting due to the fact Arnold Zetcher is a longtime executive in the women’s apparel industry.

The Los Angeles-based horseman is former chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Talbots, manufacturer and retailer of upscale professional women’s wear.

My Miss Sophia (100 points)

My Miss Sophia winning the Gazelle; Photo by Chelsea Durand

This filly is named after owners Bill and Terry Mathis’ 11-year-old daughter.

Rosalind (78 points)

Rosalind; Photo by Anne M. Eberhardt

She is named after one of Shakespeare’s most recognized heroines from the play “As You Like It.”

“Her dam is Broken Vow, and her dam is Critics Acclaim by Theatrical, so I went to Shakespeare and found one of the feistiest female characters I could recall,” explained Ray Struder, who races the filly in the name of his Landaluce Educe Stables.

Got Lucky (64 points)

Got Lucky (right); Photo by Chad B. Harmon

“We named her after the grandmother, and also because we got lucky when we finally got her since it took us three times to get her dam in foal, so it’s a double entendre,” said Phil Steinberg, who co-owns and co-bred the filly in partnership with John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings.

Steinberg explained that Got Lucky’s dam, Malka (by Deputy Minister), was bred to A.P. Indy during his final season at stud when his fertility was waning. Got Lucky’s maternal grandmother’s name is Get Lucky. Surprisingly, Steinberg and Sikura initially had trouble getting Got Lucky’s name approved by The Jockey Club.

“We had to write a letter to The Jockey Club because they thought it was too much of a (sexual) innuendo,” said Steinberg with a laugh. “But we had to explain we didn’t mean that…we told them what we meant and they gave us the name.”

Thank You Marylou (20 points)

Thank You Marylou; Photo by Coady Photography

Owners Ken named her after prominent horsewoman and socialite Marylou Whitney. The Ramseys became acquainted with Whitney after their Roses in May won the 2004 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. The Ramseys, Whitney, and her husband John Hendrickson, maintained a relationship over the next few years.

When Sarah Ramsey suffered a stroke a year after Whitney in 2007, Ramsey turned to Hendrickson for advice. Hendrickson in turn flew Whitney’s doctor from California to examine Sarah.

Ramsey credits Whitney, Hendrickson, and the doctor with possibly saving Sarah’s life. The story culminates with Marylou Whitney later visiting Sarah while she was recovering at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington. Ramsey felt it was only fitting to name one of his best fillies after Whitney for her kindness. Appropriately, Thank You Marylou is by Birdstone, who was campaigned by Whitney and is best known for spoiling Smarty Jones’ 2004 Triple Crown bid with his victory in that year’s Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/beyond-the-blinkers/archive/2014/04/10/kentucky-oaks-name-game-2014-edition.aspx#ixzz2yl1XyNHO

Odds-On Judy the Beauty Wins Madison Stakes

Odds-On Judy the Beauty Wins Madison Stakes

Wesley Ward-trained and owned Judy the Beauty was a popular 3-5 winner of the $300,000 Madison Stakes (gr. I) April 12 at Keeneland (VIDEO).

The 5-year-old Ghostzapper   mare is a perfect 4-for-4 at Keeneland and has now won five of six starts on synthetic surfaces.
Judy the Beauty got the seven furlongs of the Madison in 1:22.86 after sitting right off the early pace set by Eden Prairie and Wildcat Lily. With John Velazquez aboard, Judy the Beauty pulled clear in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths over a rallying Better Lucky. It was 2 1/4 lengths back to the closing Apropos in third with Heir Kitty  finishing a half-length farther back in fourth.
Eden Prairie, breaking from the outside post in the field of nine older fillies and mares, broke first and battled with Apropos and the speedy Wildcat Lily early. The opening quarter went in :23.04. Eden Prairie and Wildcat Lily battled to the turn through a half in :46.43 as Judy the Beauty began to make headway to the lead. Eden Prairie still held the advantage in the stretch but was overpowered by Judy the Beauty who quickly drew clear while hitting the furlong marker in 1:10.48.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Ward in the winner’s circle. ” She’s been so unlucky so many different times when she’s been beaten right on the money. To finally vindicate with a grade 1 (victory) is just unbelievable.”

“I think so,” when asked if Judy the Beauty is getting better with age. “She’s getting a lot more composed as she gets older. She used to be a little bit fractious saddling and a little nervous in the post parade. Now she just walks into the gate with a lot of class. I think it’s all come to her and hopefully it continues on the rest of the summer.”
The winner paid $3.20, $2.60, and $2.10. Better Lucky returned $4.40 and $3.20. Apropos paid $4.40 to show. The 4-6 exacta paid $16.60.

“We had the perfect trip,” Velazquez said. “She broke really well. That’s where I wanted to be: a little close to the lead. She got (the win) pretty easy.”

Heir Kitty was followed by Eden Prairie, Cozze Up Lady, Byrama, and Wildcat Lily.
The winner was bred in Ontario by Adena Springs and is out of the stakes-winning Holy Bull mare Holy Blitz. Holy Blitz won the Wishing Well Stakes at Turfway Park and is out of stakes winner Pagofire. Judy the Beauty has now has a 7-7-1 slate from 15 starts and she became a millionaire in the process, having now earned $1,005,757.
Ward purchased Judy the Beauty for $20,000 out of the opening session of the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale from the Adena Springs, agent, consignment.
Judy the Beauty won the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland last fall before running second to champion Groupie Doll in the Breeders’ Cup Filly  & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park. Judy the Beauty kicked off 2014 with a 4 3/4-length score in Santa Anita’s Las Flores Stakes (gr. III) March 9, getting six furlongs in 1:08.22.
Read more on BloodHorse.com:  http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/84356/odds-on-judy-the-beauty-wins-madison-stakes#ixzz2ykwPyYxE